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McCaskill: Highly Paid ‘SES’ Federal Employees Getting Hundreds of Millions in Bonuses

Senator publishes report showing huge sums of taxpayer dollars spent on bonuses, Introduces bipartisan legislation eliminating bonuses for federal ‘Senior Executive Service’

May 18, 2013

WASHINGTON - Even as concern over federal budget deficits grew, the federal government spent more than $340 million on cash bonuses from 2008-2011 for highly paid Senior Executive Service (SES) employees, a report released today by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill shows. After learning that SES employees are still receiving taxpayer-funded bonuses-even as automatic budget cuts force government-wide furloughs-McCaskill has introduced bipartisan legislation that would ensure bonuses are not awarded during sequestration.

"The idea that some of the highest paid federal government employees could be getting bonuses while others are being furloughed is outrageous," said McCaskill, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. "This legislation will ensure that doesn't happen."

Today's report released by McCaskill's oversight subcommittee (available on her website HERE) shows that:

  • From 2008 to 2011, the federal government spent more than $340 million on cash bonuses for SES employees. Although SES employees-who earn between approximately $119,000-$179,000-comprise less than 1% of the federal workforce, they received more than 4% of the total amount of federal dollars spent on employee bonuses during that time period.
  • Before a 2011 directive to limit SES bonuses to no more than 5% of aggregate salary, federal spending on bonuses outpaced the growth of the SES. From 2008 to 2010, federal spending on SES bonuses increased by 7%. By comparison, the total number of SES employees increased approximately 2%, from 7,736 employees in 2008 to 7,905 in 2010. In 2011, the number of SES employees increased by 1.5% while the overall value of bonuses decreased by approximately 13% from 2010.
  • Nearly every member of the SES receives a bonus. In 2011, the federal government gave bonuses to 6,519 members of the SES, approximately 81% of all SES employees.
  • In 2011, federal agencies awarded more than 6,300 cash awards totaling more than $78 million to SES employees. The agency that awarded the most performance awards on average was the General Services Administration, which awarded more than $1.1 million in bonuses to SES employees in 2011. The General Services Administration (GSA) awarded an average of 1.6 bonuses to each SES employee at the agency.

While the Administration has frozen most bonuses for federal government workers, current law mandates that agencies pay bonuses to SES employees who meet certain performance criteria. The Administration has frozen performance bonuses for non-SES federal employees. McCaskill's bipartisan legislation would prohibit performance award bonuses for SES employees during the sequester.

Separately, a report Thursday from the GSA's Inspector General identified numerous deficiencies that "illustrate a willingness by GSA to violate legal requirements" in awarding bonuses to SES employees.

McCaskill had previously introduced legislation that would cut pay for members of Congress if federal employees are furloughed due to the sequester. McCaskill has been an outspoken advocate of greater accountability in government, having previously taken action to reduce government bonuses for those under active investigation for wrongdoing.

Read more about McCaskill's fight for stronger accountability in Washington, HERE.

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